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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 May 2019

The Socialist Inbox

Letters to the Socialist's editors

The Socialist inbox: letters to the editors

The Socialist inbox: letters to the editors   (Click to enlarge)

Do you have something to say?

Send your news, views and criticism in not more than 150 words to [email protected], or if you're not online, to Socialist Postbox, PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD.

We reserve the right to shorten and edit letters. Don't forget to give your name, address and phone number. Confidentiality will be respected if requested.

Views of letter writers do not necessarily match those of the Socialist Party.

EDF rip-off

On a recent visit to the north east, I was talking to a worker in an EDF Energy call centre.

In talks about pay with GMB and Unite union negotiators, EDF Energy bosses said the workers in the north east call centre were "paid too much for what they do." They offered a one-off, non-consolidated, taxable bonus of 450 for 2019.

Workers in the call centres are low-paid, although those in the south of England are paid more than those in the north because of legacy arrangements with previous utility companies which EDF took over.

EDF nuclear workers were offered 3.35%, which they have rejected. Workers in field services have rejected an offer of 1.2%.

EDF has said that profits are down in its nuclear sector and it cannot afford to pay more. This is far from the truth. EDF would rather pay shareholders' dividends than workers' wages.

EDF made 691 million in profits last year. It paid shareholders an interim dividend of 15p per share in December 2018, and will pay a further 16p on 10 June.

Although stock in the parent company is mostly owned by the French state, there are 3,010,267,676 shares in EDF altogether. Meanwhile, EDF increased its standard variable tariff rate by 10% on 7 February.

Workers should reject the offer and demand a proper pay rise. We need to nationalise the utility companies under democratic workers' control so that workers get proper wages and customers get a fair deal.

Clare Wilkins, Nottingham

Raking it in

Two pieces of news that broke recently perfectly sum up Birmingham City Council.

It was reported in the Birmingham Post that a former senior council officer received a 455,000 severance payment when his job disappeared under a reorganisation.

The council justified it by saying that over 300,000 of this was a pension contribution.

How many council workers who took voluntary redundancy received such generous pension provision? No ordinary council worker would receive such an amount during their complete retirement period.

Meanwhile, in north Birmingham, the council is threatening to close Walsall Road allotment, currently used by over 100 local gardeners, and considered one of the best sites in the country. It has been featured twice on BBC Gardeners' World.

The council wants to use the land for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Allotment holders maintain that there are plenty of other sites in the same park that could be used for the games.

There we have it. Birmingham City Council makes huge payouts to senior managers, while taking away valuable community assets to satisfy a vanity project and the egos of senior Blairite councillors.

At least Brummies can take comfort in having the largest Primark store in the world!

Clive Walder, Birmingham

Musical chairs

Politics in Worcestershire is becoming confusing. Louise Griffiths was elected a Green councillor for Battenhall on Worcester City Council last year - but has defected to the Conservatives, complaining of antisemitism, and feeling "restricted by the set-up of the Green Party here in Worcester."

Now Daniel Walton, who was Labour Party candidate for West Worcestershire in the general election of 2015, is standing for Malvern Hills District Council, Broadheath, as an independent.

I think a bit more testing out of candidates' values and views might be in order to see how committed they are before they stand.

Pete McNally, Worcester

Rouse, Ye Women!

Rouse, Ye Women! photo by Townsend Theatre Productions

Rouse, Ye Women! photo by Townsend Theatre Productions   (Click to enlarge)

Four GMB union members from Beverley and their partners travelled across the Humber Bridge to the former ropery works in Barton-upon-Humber to watch a Townsend Theatre production of 'Rouse, Ye Women!'

The play is set entirely to verse and song, and focuses on the low-paid women chainmakers around Cradley Heath in the Midlands.

While heavy and medium chains were produced by men in the factories, the women made lighter chains, working in isolation from home, in a small back room, in cramped conditions, with a forge and a hammer and tongs.

The women working in these sweatshop conditions were dependent on the "fogger" - a middleman, subcontractor to the large manufacturers - who delivered iron rods and collected the finished chains.

The fogger would take a 25% cut of the money paid by the manufacturers, leaving the women five shillings for a 54-hour week.

It was the work of Mary Macarthur, the founder of the 100,000-strong National Federation of Women Workers, that inspired and gave confidence to these women to strike. Ten weeks in total - and 4,000 raised in strike fund, an enormous amount at the time.

Thanks to the strike and Macarthur, the Liberal government passed the 'Trade Boards Act' to set minimum rates in four low-paid trades, at two-and-a-half pence per hour. For most women, this was a rise of 100%.

The participation and interaction from the audience was spectacular, joining in with song that put a bit of fighting spirit in your belly. When the fogger entered the scene he was met with a chorus of boos reminiscent of a Christmas pantomime.

If we fight, yes we can win. The verdict of Beverley GMB members: absolutely outstanding, thoroughly enjoyable performance - highly recommended.

Tony Davison, GMB Beverley

Democratic rights

The state uses the threat of crime to attack democratic rights. I was giving out leaflets, and told to move on.

I refused, and got searched - when they realised I was a 'threat to the public' as I had my work knife on my keys. I told them I work on a building site. They took it. That cost me 15 quid.

Mike, Southampton

Payday penury

The people of Romford, east London borrowed 55,299 payday loans out of a population of just 95,894 in 2018, according to the Financial Conduct Authority. Their loans totalled just over 15 million.

Also, Birmingham was named as the payday loan capital of the UK, with its residents borrowing a total of 37 million in 2018.

A report in the Guardian went on: "In recent years, millions of people have turned to the high-cost payday loans to help pay their rent or mortgage, deal with an unexpected emergency, or simply afford their weekly food shop."

These statistics cannot convey the sheer misery behind them - the human and social cost paid for in poor mental and physical health, homelessness, family and relationship breakdown and rising crime.

We socialists must, however, translate these stats into a programme for revolutionary socialist change - based on common, democratic public ownership of the means of life, including land, our essential public services, industries, and the finance and banking sector.

And we must carry forth a strategy of coordinated, mass action, building towards generalised strike action, to drive the heartless Tories and their Blairite apologists from office and their positions once and for all.

Len Hockey, Loughton

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

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In The Socialist 8 May 2019:

Socialist Party election analysis

Local elections: Tory meltdown but Labour loses ground

England council elections: socialist anti-cuts message chimes with voters

Leicester elections: "We planted a marker for the future"

Bolsover elections: Labour's cuts councillors punished by voters

Halton Brook election: support for our policies on doorstep

International socialist news and analysis

Spanish elections - new upheavals underline need for a revolutionary socialist alternative

Socialist Party news and analysis

Climate catastrophe looms: we need socialist change

Young and old, unite and fight!

Water bosses plan to undermine nationalisation: no compensation for fat cats!

Northern Ireland: Socialist wins council seat

Them & Us

Workplace news and analysis

Unions must back a general election and oppose bosses' EU

Doncaster NHS pay win shows: strikes can get results!

PCS union: listen to members, link the campaigns - we can win fight on pay

Usdaw union conference demands action on pay, jobs and the right

UCU general secretary election: fight for a left leadership!

Newham gas workers to strike

Hull dinner ladies protest against loss of week's pay

Asda workers protest against attacks on paid breaks and bank holiday working

Woolwich Ferry staff to strike over pay and safety

Radiographers' union slams professional costs

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Labour launches homelessness campaign

Socialist vision at Leeds May Day rally

Alternative housing awards shames bosses


Sequel to 'A Very British Coup' - workers' struggle, not bosses' EU and media, is route to socialism

'Line of Duty' - twists and turns as organised crime meets police corruption

The Socialist Inbox


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